Why Does Hebrew Matter?
In an eloquent and charming answer to this question, Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes addresses the many ways engagement with Hebrew enriches Jewishness – culturally, religiously, ethnically.
Whether you know Hebrew or not, linguist and cultural anthropologist Jeremy Benstein takes us on a journey into the deeper significance of Hebrew in the life of Jews and Judaism. Since fluency is such a distant goal for so many, Benstein shows us another approach: engaging with Hebrew by focusing on the three-letter Hebrew roots that are the building blocks of the language, seeing these “nuggets of knowledge” as a vehicle to enriching our connection to Judaism and its values.
For instance, tzedakah, usually translated as “charity” actually relates to notions of justice (tzedek) and responsibility, not acts of generosity, thus encapsulating an entire economic world-view. With many examples throughout the book, and in nineteen innovative “Wordshops,” Benstein shows us both why and how to connect to this underappreciated treasure of ours.
Like Jews and Judaism, Hebrew is both ancient and renewing, holy and daily, tribal and global. So more than just a book about a language, this is a book about the Jewish people and the challenges we face as seen through our shared language, Hebrew.
LINKS TO BOOK REVIEWS:
Dr. Jeremy Benstein is an educator, author and Hebrew lover. He holds a BA in linguistics from Harvard, a master’s degree in Judaic studies from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, and a doctorate in cultural anthropology from the Hebrew University.
He grew up in the Midwest, and moved to Israel over 35 years ago. Along the way, he helped found the Heschel Center for Sustainability in Tel Aviv. He is currently the managing editor of 929-English (Tanakh: Age-Old Text, New Perspectives – www.929.org.il), and lives in Zichron Yaakov with his wife, Prof. Annabel Herzog, five children, two cats, and many books.
He is the author of two books. The first, The Way Into Judaism and the Environment (Jewish Lights, 2006), is an outgrowth of his work on Jewish studies and environmental issues. His most recent one, Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes: A Tribal Language In a Global World (Behrman House, 2019) is a labor of love for and about the Hebrew language, and its role in Jewish history, identity and peoplehood.
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